The latest version of the Democrats’ $1.5 trillion spending bill being pushed through Congress includes funding for questionable foreign projects, such as “gender programs” in Pakistan and democracy building in authoritarian nations.
According to a section of the bill outlining State Department funding for the year, an unspecified portion of the nearly $4 billion available in bilateral economic assistance — meaning direct transfers from the United States to other countries — shall “be made available for programs to promote democracy and for gender programs in Pakistan.”
Up to $200 million of bilateral assistance will go to the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund, which the Biden administration says “supports efforts to address the impact that Covid-19, climate change, conflict and crisis have on the economic security of women and their families.” An additional $50 million will go toward increasing leadership opportunities for women in countries where they face discrimination.
The bill also tasks the US with funding programs for foreign nationals to attend college and other institutes of higher learning in their home countries. It earmarks $15 million for higher education programs in Vietnam, and instructs the State Department to submit a report detailing plans to support higher education for Afghan nationals. No less than $250 million overall will be provided for higher education programs abroad.
Tens of millions of dollars are also made available for democracy building projects in South America. Venezuela would receive $40 million and Nicaragua $15 million for “democracy programs” via the legislation.
Nancy Pelosi deigned to strip almost $16 billion in Covid relief from the package, after a revolt from members of her party. Government funding is due to expire on Friday, meaning the bill is likely to be ushered through without much time for members to scrutinize its contents. “It’s just dysfunctional to have something as large as this and then expect people to vote on it without having the opportunity to review it,” South Dakota senator Mike Rounds told CNN.